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Global development and business groups call for trade reforms to benefit poor countries

By Oxfam

WASHINGTON, DC — International development organization Oxfam America joined a diverse group of anti-poverty organizations and business associations to call on the US Trade Representative and leaders in Congress to undertake comprehensive reform of US trade preference programs to more effectively promote economic development in the world's poorest countries.

In letters sent to Ambassador Ron Kirk, to Representatives Rangel and Camp, and to Senators Baucus and Grassley, the groups outlined a joint proposal for reform that would unify, simplify and improve existing trade preference programs. The groups also urged timely renewal of preference programs that are set to expire this year, in order to allow a full process of review and reform.

Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, made the following statement:

"US trade preference programs provide important economic opportunities for developing countries because they create jobs and expand trade. But existing preference programs fail to benefit some of the world's poorest countries, while a labyrinth of different and complex rules makes them nearly impossible to use to their full extent.

"Preference programs must be expanded to enhance benefits for all of the poorest countries. And the creation of a single, comprehensive preference program to replace the myriad of existing programs will improve effectiveness, both for American businesses and poor countries.

"The recent trend to renew expiring preference programs at the last possible moment for only short periods of time left business supply chains and many thousands of jobs in poor countries shrouded in limbo. By renewing expiring programs now and initiating a process of reform to make them more effective, Congress can cement the certainty that investors, businesses and workers need in order to effectively take full advantage of such programs.

"Trade offers opportunities for growth and development for poor countries and rich countries alike. By offering more trade opportunities to the poorest, we can make a contribution to their growth and stability."

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